Wednesday, July 24, 2024

The Youth on Fire drop-in center shares space with the Y2Y youth shelter in Cambridge’s Harvard Square. (Photo: Y2Y)

Youth on Fire, a day drop-in center in Cambridge for 14- to 24-year-olds experiencing homelessness, will be managed by The Home for Little Wanderers when it reopens July 8, the national child welfare agency said Friday.

The youth center became victim of financial problems at Fenway Health, which in April announced also that it was closing its Boomerangs thrift shops regionwide and cutting hours at the needle exchange on Green Street in Central Square.

The center “is in a transition period” but will reopen under the same name and at the same location, 1 Church St. in Harvard Square, with no change in service expected, said officials at the Home for Little Wanderers. That includes food, housing, access to laundry facilities, health services and referrals for unhoused and street-involved youth.

“Youth on Fire has a long and proven track record of serving as an open and necessary front door for young adults who have no other place to go,” said Lesli Suggs, president and chief executive for The Home. “In a high-cost-of-living city like ours, it’s vital that we keep those doors open and support our children until they can stand on their own.”

Youth on Fire was established in 2000 with what was then the AIDS Action Committee. Funded largely by the Department of Public Health and the City of Cambridge, it serves more than 200 young adults each year, or more than 3,000 members since its opening, according to leaders there.

Mandy Lussier, site manager for Youth on Fire, and officials at The Home say that on any given night there are nearly 400 unaccompanied youth and young adults who are unhoused in the Cambridge area, often because their homes are unsafe, unsupportive, or nonexistent. The estimates do not include those fleeing or trying to flee dangerous situations such as domestic violence or sex trafficking.

“This is an opportunity for both organizations to amplify the work we’ve been doing in the community and to continue to show up for the youth we serve. I’m incredibly optimistic about our bright future,” Lussier said.